PORT ST. LUCIE — As Seth Lugo battles for a spot in the Mets’ starting rotation, his name is increasingly surfacing as a preferred bullpen option. With Jeurys Familia expected to begin the season serving a suspension, following his offseason arrest on domestic violence charges, team officials continue to identify the bullpen as the biggest area of concern near the midway point of the Grapefruit League season.
And that may change team brass’ thinking about how to deploy Lugo, according to an industry source, should he not secure the fifth starter’s spot in the rotation — Zack Wheeler and Robert Gsellman are the other candidates for the job. The thought earlier in camp was Lugo or Gsellman likely would begin the season at Las Vegas to give the Mets rotation insurance. But with it possible Wheeler could be headed toward extended spring training in an effort to preserve his workload, team officials can envision a scenario in which Gsellman is the fifth starter to begin the season and Lugo serves as a bridge that leads into Fernando Salas and Addison Reed until Familia returns to reclaim the closer’s job.
Hansel Robles is another reliever the Mets are counting on to help in the setup role. Lugo pitched 5 scoreless innings against Venezuela for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic on Friday, only enhancing his chances of breaking camp with the Mets. “That is a major league lineup in Venezuela,” pitching coach Dan Warthen said, referring to a team that includes Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, Carlos Gonzalez and Victor Martinez.
The performance also caught manager Terry Collins’ attention. “Those national teams, they are playing for a little integrity, and to shut down that lineup is pretty impressive,” he said. Lugo was with a 2.
67 ERA in 17 appearances for the Mets last season, with his best work coming as a starter over the final six weeks as the team survived the losses of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz to claim a National League berth. Other righties in camp making a bid for a bullpen role include Paul Sewald, Rafael Montero and Ben Rowen. The rookie Sewald pitched two scoreless innings in the Mets’ exhibition loss to the Nationals on Saturday and has a 1.
29 ERA in five appearances this Grapefruit League season. “He’s a ” Collins said. “We saw it last year, we saw it during the season and ultimately when we get down toward the end [of camp] when we decide where we are standing in our bullpen and need a guy that can perhaps give you some innings, he might be in that mix.
” Josh Smoker is having the strongest exhibition season among the lefty relievers in camp, but team officials still are evaluating Josh Edgin and Tom Gorzelanny as potential options behind Jerry Blevins. “I think [Smoker’s] changeup and his breaking ball have both improved,” Warthen said. “Location on the fastball has improved, he’s not trying to throw every one as hard as he possibly can, he is thinking about movement and location and doing a great job and still having plenty of fastball.
” Warthen said the Mets should have enough pieces to survive Familia’s likely suspension. “I think Addison Reed can do whatever we ask,” Warthen said. “And everybody can move to another role comfortably.